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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Tasers For Civilians

Source: Delaware OnLine

Cpl. Shawn Brittingham of the Georgetown Police demonstrates a police model taser last month. News Journal file/by Bob Hebert

DOVER -- The $350 Taser C2 is pretty in pink and absolutely stunning in leopard print, and it can be paired with an optional holster that functions as an MP3 player.

Aesthetically far removed from its police counterpart, the newest generation of powerful electronic weapons is meant to appeal to civilians -- particularly women.

Taser International's most recent quarterly revenues increased 60.6 percent from the same period a year earlier, and Wall Street analysts expect earnings to grow at a rate of almost 50 percent this year and next -- with the potential for significant growth in the largely untapped civilian market. The civilian C2 model -- the one with the leopard print -- made a splash at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and infomercials for the device began airing in February. A merchant in Elkton, Md., calls them "quite popular."

The weapons' increasing popularity among the general public has sparked a recent move in the General Assembly to fine-tune the criminal code to make it a felony to assault someone with a stun gun.

Concerned about potential misuse of the nonlethal self-defense weapon, which temporarily disables a target with an initial shot of 50,000 volts, Rep. Joseph W. Booth, R-Georgetown, sponsored House Bill 298. In December, an aggressor used a stun gun during a home invasion at a Sussex County mobile home park.

Although it already is a felony to spray someone with tear gas or chemical Mace unless it's in self-defense, the law does not mention Tasers or stun guns. Because of that, the Sussex County incident had to be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

"It should be given the same treatment as Mace," Booth said. Booth said he asked a group of state troopers whether they would rather be sprayed or shocked.

The vote was unanimous: None wanted to be zapped with the Taser.

"It's not fun. Not fun at all," said Georgetown Police Capt. Ralph Holm, who has been shocked as part of his Taser training.

"There is pain associated with it. However, it's more about disrupting the muscular or nervous system, and it overrides that so you have no control."

The Taser shoots two metal darts that are connected by wires to the handheld unit. The initial zap of 50,000 volts creates a spark that can penetrate up to 2 inches of clothing. Once contact is made, the Taser puts out short pulses of 400 volts, enough to disrupt the nervous system and knock an assailant to the ground.

Other stun devices do not shoot darts, but deliver the high-voltage shock through physical contact with the victim.

It is billed as a nonlethal weapon and an alternative to deadly force -- but Arizona-based manufacturer Taser International has long been embroiled in controversy over whether the devices can kill.

Amnesty International contends that more than 290 people in the United States have died after being struck by police Tasers, and the group opposes their sale to civilians.

Taser International disputes those allegations. Recently, the company announced that three wrongful-death lawsuits against it had been dismissed -- bringing to 66 the number of lawsuits it has won or had dismissed.

On Tuesday, Delaware State Police announced that about 100 troopers will be issued Tasers after they receive training. That decision follows a pilot program last year in which 16 troopers were issued the units.

State police also will prepare an annual report on the deployment and use of the device, said Superintendent Col. Thomas F. MacLeish.

Much of Taser's sales to civilians come from the company's online store or from specialty retailers.

Ken Potter and wife, Marie, of Elkton, Md., sell the devices through their online store, Protect Your Home and Family.

Ken Potter said there is no such thing as a typical Taser customer.

"I have a whole spectrum, from young married couples on up," he said. "I had a lady call me in her 80s that wants one, and she was not afraid to use it."

The pink and leopard-print versions of the C2 are a further move to market the devices to women, who already have taken to the C2 for its light weight and ease of use.

It doesn't even look like a gun, unlike the civilian X26C, which is modeled after the police version and resembles a futuristic handgun. More HERE

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